Report on the dialogue on civil society and OGP
18 April 2012, Ulysses Guimarães Convention Center, Brasilia
Over 100 civil society members attended the dialogue that was organized by INESC and the civil society members of the OGP Steering Committee at the end of the two-day annual meeting of the Open Government Partnership in Brasilia. The main purpose of the meeting was to start a conversation dialogue within civil society about how to work together going forward to strengthen OGP both in-country and internationally. The dialogue was also an opportunity for the newly appointed OGP civil society coordinator, Paul Maassen, to introduce himself.
Warren Krafchik, co-chair of the OGP, introduced the civil society members in the steering committee (SC_CS members) as well as the history and progress made over the last 15 months. He underlined that OGP is a young initiative with lots of potential. The fact that civil society is an equal partner in this multi-lateral initiative from the onset is a major achievement in its own right.
Paul Maassen then provided some initial thinking on his priorities going forward. He emphasized that the main dynamic of OGP needs to be at country level, driven by national civil society in interaction with their governments, and tailored to the local context. Paul’s primary role will be to strengthen and support national OGP efforts, to make sure that civil society connects and learns across countries, and to link broader civil society with the SC_CS members. Paul argued that communication, sharing and openness will be key watchwords for his position. He will officially start in June and will report to the SC_CS members, as well as attend Steering Committee meetings as an observer.
The next part of the agenda was to discuss governance of OGP and the proposed rotation of SC_CS members. Rakesh Rajani introduced the proposed mechanism, as articulated in the articles of governance (part IV, page 8 on elections and voting). An energetic debate ensued, especially on the proposed voting mechanism, the role of the SC_CS members in the election process, the importance of language and diversity, and the definition of civil society. Several practical suggestions for changes were suggested and will be taken up in future discussions when civil society has had sufficient time to consider the proposals. In this regard, civil society involved in OGP are encouraged to read the articles of governance and send concrete recommendations on the rotation mechanism to civilsociety.OGP@gmail.com
In smaller groups, three questions were discussed:
- The SC, CS coordinator and broader civil society – how can they best support and interact with each other;
- National OGP action – how can civil society have the most impact at the national level;
- International collaboration – how can civil society best leverage OGP beyond the national level?
In relation to the first question people specifically asked for improved interaction with the SC_CS members, for example in preparing for the annual conference and/or SC meetings. They expect the coordinator to primarily communicate, inform, and connect and to collect and share experiences across borders and in various languages.
The suggestions coming out of the second question built on the above. Participants discussed ways to strengthen national level work (i.e. broad outreach meetings), to prepare for the next phases of OGP (i.e. track commitments online, process for monitoring and evaluation, safeguard continuity on government side), share experiences (i.e. successful Ukraine CS model, collecting stories for London) and the importance of ‘local/city level’ commitments.
Respondents to the last question discussed the advantages and disadvantages of organizing along thematic or regional lines as a basis for learning and sharpening our collective input.
Concluding, Paul Maassen promised to come back to the broader civil society group with a survey to further assess needs and priorities. This survey will also have space for questions from civil society to civil society. Concrete questions can be send to civilsociety.OGP@gmail. Warren Krafchik promised to come back with a time line for further debate on key issues. He concluded with a plea not to focus too much on the international, formal side of OGP, but to dream about OGPs potential at the country level.
The meeting agenda was based on the results of a survey.
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